Most Shoppers do not understand the ‘Natural’ Food Label
Natural Food is becoming big business, but having the word ‘Natural’ on a food label may not mean a product is as good for you as you may think.
Research has been done to see what a ‘Natural’ label means to people and whether it truly can be defined by the Food and Drug Administration.
The article below comments on how people are now buying more foods labelled ‘Natural’ but don’t understand the true meaning of it.
Do you fully understand the ‘Natural’ food label when out shopping?
The U.S. has a confused consumer epidemic — more shoppers are seeking foods labeled “natural” despite not fully understanding what the claim means.
The percentage of people who regularly buy food labeled natural has grown from 59% in 2014 to 62% in 2015, yet confusion abounds, according to research out Wednesday from Consumer Reports. The study shows the majority of people don’t know what they’re paying for when it comes to natural labels. At the same time, pressure is mounting to define a term that’s never been legally regulated.
At least 60% of people believe a natural label means packaged and processed foods have no genetically modified organisms, no artificial ingredients or colors, no chemicals and no pesticides, according to the study by Consumer Reports. And 45% think that natural is a verified claim. It’s not.
In fact, none of those attributes is necessarily true, because use of the word is not regulated. At least, not yet.
The report comes as the Food and Drug Administration takes a closer look this year at how the term is used, whether it should be defined and how. A public comment period is taking place through May 10, according to the FDA site.
“Natural” is a seemingly straightforward word that’s taken on an increasingly confounding meaning as our food preferences and definition of health evolve. The FDA does not formally define the word, meaning its use isn’t regulated by any law. A “longstanding policy” interprets it to mean nothing artificial or synthetic has been added to a food that wouldn’t normally be expected in that food, according to the FDA website. But the policy isn’t intended to address food production, processing or manufacturing methods.
Organizations, including Consumer Reports and the Grocery Manufacturers Association, have been urging the FDA to define the term in recent years, as shoppers have moved away from processed and packaged foods and food companies have pledged to phase out artificial ingredients.
Due to the range of interpretation, though, defining the term “natural” may prove a challenging, if not elusive, task.
“From a food-science perspective, it is difficult to define a food product that is ‘natural’ because the food has probably been processed in some way,” says Lauren Kotwicki, a spokeswoman for the FDA. Pointing out the potential to split hairs, Just says all food at the grocery store passes through human manipulation at some point, even if it’s just that a human planted the seed.
It’s not as if we’re buying “naturally-occurring wild carrots or something,” he says. “It’s really hard to come up with a definition that’s both intuitive and actually meaningful to the consumer.”